Rangers vs. Lightning Preview
TAMPA BAY, FL (AP) - Keeping pace with Sidney Crosby's amazing season seems almost impossible, but Steven Stamkos is doing everything he can to keep the league's best player within his sights.
Stamkos looks to extend his goal streak to five games and help the surging Tampa Bay Lightning maintain at least a share of first place in the Southeast Division on Saturday night against the New York Rangers.
Crosby has been the story of the season thus far, leading the league with 32 goals and 65 points while putting together a 25-game point streak that ended Wednesday.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Lightning -130 money line favorites for Saturday's game against the Rangers. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 58% of more than 350 bets for this game have been placed on the Lightning -130.
Stamkos, meanwhile, seems intent on proving his 51-goal season in 2009-10 was no fluke, ranking second in the NHL with 31 goals and 56 points. Tampa Bay's emerging superstar has been outstanding lately with 10 goals and six assists in his last 10 games, helping the Lighting (22-11-5) to a 7-1-2 mark.
Now he'll look to score a goal in a season-high fifth straight game after matching a career high with four points (two goals, two assists) in a 4-1 win over visiting Montreal on Thursday night.
"He's a great player," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "Great determination."
Martin St. Louis and Pavel Kubina also scored, and Cedrick Desjardins made 27 saves to win his NHL debut as the Lightning moved into a tie with Washington atop the Southeast.
Desjardins got the call after Dan Ellis had started the previous five games while Mike Smith recovers from a minor knee injury. Desjardins was acquired from the Canadiens in August after playing for Lightning coach Guy Boucher last season with Hamilton of the AHL.
"It's kind of Hollywood to play them my first game," Desjardins said. "They gave me my chance at 20 years old and I'll always be respectful for that. It's a day I won't forget."
Somewhat overshadowed by Stamkos is another stellar season from St. Louis, third in the NHL with 50 points. The 12-year veteran has five goals and eight assists in his last seven games.
The Rangers (22-14-2) also have been playing very well, going 5-1-1 in their last seven, a stretch that includes a 4-3 shootout loss to the Lightning at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 23.
New York has rebounded from that defeat with two straight wins, rolling to a 7-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Monday before getting a season-high 43 saves from Henrik Lundqvist in a 3-1 victory at New Jersey on Wednesday.
"It's all about finding a way to win these types of games," coach John Tortorella said. "Hank gave us a chance with his play and then we got better as the game went on. We're not going to be perfect every night. There are going to be nights like this. They controlled it on us early on, but our goalie gave us a chance."
With Ryan Callahan - one of their best offensive players - sidelined by a broken hand, several Rangers have stepped up in his absence. Brian Boyle has three goals and six assists in his last seven games, while rookie Derek Stepan has four goals and two assists in the past five.
New York has another hole to fill with center Erik Christensen expected to miss four to six weeks with a knee injury suffered Wednesday. Christensen has six goals and eight assists.
The Lightning have won both meetings against the Rangers this season, with Stamkos tallying two goals and two assists.